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  Fragile Give Them A Break
Year: 2005
Director: Jaume Balagueró
Stars: Calista Flockhart, Richard Roxburgh, Elena Anaya, Gemma Jones, Yasmin Murphy, Colin McFarlane, Michael Pennington, Daniel Ortiz, Susie Trayling, Lloyd F. Booth Shankley, Michael Gatward, Scarlet Carey, Cameron Antrobus, Olivia Bjork, Fergus Riordan
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: There have been strange occurences in this children's hospital on the Isle of Wight, and one of the patients there, cystic fibrosis sufferer Maggie (Yasmin Murphy), is more attuned to these than most. Tonight, as the establishment is preparing to move out most of the patients with the crumbling building soon obsolete, she goes to the nurse on duty, Susan (Susie Trayling), to tell her that whatever had been there is coming back. The nurse is alarmed, and that fear only intensifies when one little boy breaks his leg - while sleeping in bed.

Before he had an international hit with zombie movie REC, director Jaume Balagueró was part of the movement in Spanish language horror that employed the ghost story for their shocks, and Fragile was his entry into that genre. The king of such works had been Guillermo del Toro, who was a Mexican collaborating on Spanish movies, but he had nothing to do with this which had pretensions towards a classy variety of scares - at least until a late on development where it headed straight over the top and left the viewer wondering if they'd made the correct decision in the direction they had taken.

Either this was better as the low key fright flick, or the blood and thunder shocker, and it wanted to have this both ways, which at least woke up those members of the audience lulled into slumber by its moody meanderings as imported star Calista Flockhart glumly played out her troubled character's emotional journey. Her Amy had something of a past which didn't become entirely explicit but we learned enough to know that as a nurse she had mishandled a case, and was returning to work in another country where she would not be as well known. Just her luck that she picked this location - or did it pick her?

Questions like that remained frustratingly vague until the answers to the main mystery grew apparent and we were privy to what exactly was haunting the hospital. Amy strikes up a bond with Maggie, but with such a deliberately emotive premise involving sick children, some of whom may not be around for much longer, whatever respite from impending tragedy could be found would have been welcome. Or it would have been if the basis for their bond were not facing up to the fact that there is a ghost in the building who does not want the children to be moved, and will go as far as hastening their demises if it means she gets to spend eternity with them.

Although this was dreamt up by Spaniards, it was a British co-production so everyone spoke in English, even Elena Anaya, the sole performer from her native Spain to be given a prominent role. Often in these cases the dreaded atmosphere of the Euro-pudding was apparent, that curious hybrid which did not have the flavour of any particular one of the countries involved in putting up the money and stranded the cast - not to mention the audience - in a not quite anywhere situation. Luckily, for a horror movie this gave proceedings a sense of dislocation as was the case here, so if it was neither one thing nor the other as far as being recognisably of a place went you could appreciate a decent enough mood of creeping nervousness. It was just that the minute one character was abruptly defenestrated by supernatural means you could be forgiven for laughing, and the histrionics which followed, in spite of a neat-ish twist, were hard to take seriously after that. Music by Roque Baños.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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